# Counter

This is a trick-taking game for 3-5 players using a standard international 52-card deck with no Jokers. It is similar to Oh Hell in that players predict the number of tricks they intend to win, but it differs in that all the cards have special powers that affect which cards can be played to a trick and which card wins it.

At the beginning of each hand, the dealer deals 10 cards to each player. The remaining cards are placed aside the playing area, and the top card is flipped over to determine the trump suit.

Starting with the dealer's left and continuing clockwise, each player bids, stating the exact number of tricks he or she will aim to win.

After the bidding phase, the dealer's left leads the first trick. The basic rules of play are that players must follow suit if they can, and if unable to follow suit may play any card. If a trick contains trumps the highest trump in it wins; otherwise it is won by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

Players score according to the number they bid and the number of tricks that they won, according to the table below.

Tricks won Bid made exactly Tricks won different
from Tricks Bid
0 2 1
1 2 0
2 2 0
3 3 0
4 4 0
5 5 0 or 4*
6 6 0 or 5**
7 7 6
8 8 7
9 9 8
10 10 9

* For a failed bid a player who won 5 tricks scores 4 points in a 5-player game, but 0 points if there are 3 or 4 players.

** For a failed bid a player who won 6 tricks scores 5 points in a 4- or 5-player game, but 0 points if there are 3 players.

The general rule in a game with P players to calculate the score S for a player who bids B tricks and wins W tricks is as follows.

• If W=B and B≥2, S=B.
• If W=B and B<2, S=2.
• If W≠B and W=0, S=1.
• If W≠B and W+P≥10, and S=W-1.
• If W≠B and W>0 and W+P<10, S=0.

Play continues until one or more players reach a previously agreed upon number of points. Recommended targets are:

• 3 players: 9 points
• 4 players: 8 points
• 5 players: 7 points

The player with most points then wins the game, or in case of a tie there could be two or more winners.

The meat of the game lies in how each card affects the trick. Each card has a basic value and an individual effect.

The basic values are A=1, 2 to 10 face value, J=11, Q=12, K=13.

Here are the individual effects.

Ace If a J, Q, or K of the same suit is played to the same trick, the Ace's value changes from 1 to 14. Changes its suit to a trump when played. This means that for the purpose of following suit a two counts as the suit printed on it - it can only be played when that suit is led and must be played if it is the holder's only card of that suit. When a trump is led other players can play the two of trumps, but not any other two unless they have no trumps. However, if a two is led it becomes a trump when it hits the table and all players must follow suit with trumps if they can. Twos count as trumps for the purpose of deciding who has won the trick. The first three played to a trick steals the values of all 4's and queens in the trick. That is, the values of the 4's and queens are added to the value of the three and the fours and queens then have value zero. If more than one three is played to a trick only the first three steals value from the 4's and queens. Subsequent threes are just worth 3. If the player of a 4 reveals (not plays) a second 4 from their hand, the 4 gains the "victor" buff. Otherwise, the 4 gains the "void" buff. A victor 4 absolutely wins the trick regardless of value or suit, and a void 4 absolutely loses the trick regardless of value or suit. However, they both still have a basic value of 4. Steals the value from 6's. If more than one 5 is played to a trick the first 5 steals the value of all 6's in the trick and subsequent 5's steal nothing. Additionally, at the end of the trick containing one or more 5's (unless it is the last trick), each player must pass one card of their choice face down to the left. (Players may not look at their received card until they have passed a card.) If the 6 has the lowest final value of all cards played to the trick, the person who played it leads to the next trick, and the final value of that led card will be multiplied by 2. If a 6 ties with another card for lowest final value, it has no effect. If an odd number of 7's is played to a trick, the trick is won by the lowest valued trump in it, or if it contains no trumps by the lowest valued card of the suit that was led. In a trick that contains an even number of 7's, the 7's have no special effect - in other words, pairs of 7's cancel each other's effect. When played, an 8 gains the suit that was led as a secondary suit. This does not allow an 8 to be played on a lead of a different suit unless the holder has no card of the suit led. A player who holds no card of the suit led except the 8 is not obliged to play it (except of course in the last trick). When deciding who has won the trick, the 8 of trumps counts as a trump and any other 8 counts as an 8 of the suit that was led. A player who has the 8 of the suit led but no other card of that suit is not obliged to play the 8, but can play a card of a different suit instead. When a 9 is played to the trick, after applying other effects count how many cards in the trick have a final value higher than 9 and how many are lower. If there are more cards with a higher value than 9, the final value of the 9 becomes 15. If more are lower, the final value of the 9 becomes ½. If the numbers of cards with final values greater and less than 9 are equal the 9's keep their value of 9. When a ten is played whose suit is different from the suit of the card that was led, it changes its suit to the suit that was led and its value to 15. Note that the suit changes immediately after the ten is played, so a ten of a different suit from the lead can only be played if the holder has no cards of the suit led (except possibly the 8). Also note that the 10 of trumps, if played on a non-trump suit lead, ceases to be a trump and becomes the 15 of the led suit, and is therefore beaten by any other trump in the trick however small. At the end of the trick, any Jacks that were played are placed face up on top of the stack of undealt cards in the order that they were played. The trump suit then changes to the suit of the last Jack that was played to the trick. If there are any queens in the trick, the victor or void "buff" is removed from any 4's that were played to the trick. If there are any cards in the trick with a final value of 11 (this could for example be a jack or a 5 that has stolen the value of one 6), the value of the queen changes to 15. This effect is applied before the effect of any three played to the trick, which would then steal 15 from the queen. Examples: 4, 4, 3, Q. The queen removes any buff from the fours, then the three steals the values from the other three cards and is worth 23 (3+4+4+12) leaving the other three cards worth 0 each. 5, 6, 3, Q. The 5 steals the value of the 6 making 11, then the queen's value changes to 15 and finally the three steals this, so that the 5 is worth 11, the queen 15 and the 6 and the Q are worth 0 each. If a king is led to a trick, and sevens played to the trick have no effect, and the trump suit for the trick is determined by the first (if any) card played whose suit is different from the trump indicator card and different from the suit of the led king.

Taking account of the special effects, the rule for deciding the winner of each trick is as follows.

If any fours have been played with the victor "buff", and the trick contains no queens, the first victor 4 wins the trick. Otherwise, look at the cards in the trick excluding void 4's, which cannot win.

• If there are 0, 2 or 4 sevens in the trick, it is won by the trump with the highest final value, or if there are no trumps in the trick by the card of the suit led with the highest final value.
• If there are 1 or 3 sevens in the trick, it is won by the trump with the lowest final value, or if there are no trumps in the trick by the card of the suit led with the lowest final value.

In case of a tie for highest or lowest final value the earliest of the tied cards that was played has precedence for the purpose of winning the trick.

If a trick consists entirely of void fours, no one wins it and the player who led to that trick leads again to the next.

Remark on tactics. The inventor points out the results of the play are 'hilariously' unpredictable. That feature combined with the scoring schedule means that it is never going to be worth bidding more than 4 in a 5-player game, more than 5 in a 4-player game or more than 6 in a 3-player game, since a correct bid would only be worth 1 extra point. Also if you can win at least 5 tricks with 5 players, 6 with 4 players or 7 with 3 players it is always worthwhile to do so, since this will bring in as many or more points than succeeding in your lower bid.

Rules in italics are interpretations by the editor, awaiting confirmation or correction from the inventor of the game.

Last updated: 20th September 2023

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